Bullying is an epidemic that impacts children of all ages. It reaches its peak in middle school, where 44 percent of schools report at least one incidence of bullying each week. In reality, the real number of incidents is likely much higher: children (and adults) often fail to report ongoing bullying because of fear appearing “uncool,” or becoming a target themselves.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, an ideal time for educators and parents to empower children with the resources and confidence they need to prevent to bullying.
“It can be incredibly hard stand up to bullying, especially if no one else is challenging the behavior,” say authors Cindy Miller, a school social worker, and Cynthia Lowen, producer and writer of the documentary film, Bully. “In these situations, it can require an extra measure of independent thinking by your child to recognize that what she’s witnessing is wrong, and confidence in her own values to step in and do something about it.”
In their book The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention and Intervention, Miller and Lowen offer 10 tips for helping turn bystanders – those who are aware of a bullying situation but do nothing to prevent it – safely become upstanders – those students or adults who call attention to bullying and work to protect children who are targeted. The tips include:
(Note: Although written in the feminine, all of these indicators apply equally to boys and girls.)
- Be a friend to someone who is being bullied: Walk with the target in the hall, sit with her at lunch, welcome her into your group, “friend” her on Facebook.
- Help the target talk to an adult: Walk with her to a counselor’s officer or a teacher, or make a witness report if you were there when the bullying occurred.
- Don’t participate: Avoid spreading rumors, contributing to online bullying, laughing at mean remarks, or actively adding to the bullying in any way.
- Tell the bully to stop: Assertively tell the bully that you don’t like what she’s doing, that it’s bullying, and that it needs to stop. And always speak to an adult when you witness bullying.
- Tell bystanders to stop: If you see others participating in bullying or laughing along, tell them they’re making the problem worse and are also bullying. Stop untrue rumors.
- Reach out to newcomers: If you notice a new person at your school, reach out to her; introduce her to your friends and make her feel welcome.
- Don’t be afraid to think independently or be the only one voicing what others are probably thinking: The people most celebrated in our culture are those who took the risk to speak out and stand up to injustice.
- Start an upstander club at your school: Let others know you’re an upstander and someone others can go to if they’re being bullied.
- Talk to parents, teachers, principals, and staff about bullying at school: Tell them where it’s happening, and where kids need greater protection.
- Sign an anti-bullying pledge (sample pledges available in The Essential Guide to Bullying): Write down your own commitment to preventing bullying, and ask your friends to sign their agreement.
More tips and guidance on identifying and preventing bullying are available in The Essential Guide to Bullying.
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